Relativity Space, an American space company founded in 2015, is quietly beginning to make progress in developing a reusable rocket.
The company was founded on a remarkable observation: CEO Tim Ellis and CTO Jordan Noone believed that existing space companies were not making enough use of 3D printing technology. Relativity Space therefore wants to become the first company to produce rockets in this way. This should make the production process cheaper and faster.
Initially, it will produce consumer spacecraft, the so-called Terran 1 model. Launching a rocket will cost about $12 million. Going forward, the company also plans to develop reusable rockets to compete with companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab.
Relativity Space has generated a lot of interest over the past few years, although it has yet to make a single launch. In total, it has already raised approximately $1.3 billion in capital and employs a thousand people.
A first launch soon
These employees have not been vacant in recent years. In fact, the company built the largest metal 3D printer in the world to produce the Terran 1 rockets largely in-house.
At the end of October, the company sends such a rocket into space for the first time during a test flight. The mission, called “GLHF,” or “Good Luck, Have Fun,” a term often used in video games to wish good luck to the opponent, will be used to check whether the Terran 1 rocket is working properly.
A second Terran 1 will then make another flight in December. During this second flight, the rocket will even already put a handful of satellites into orbit. Relativity Space’s first customer is none other than the American space agency, NASA.
Although Terran 1 cannot be recycled, which is almost one shall in today’s space race will be its successor, Terran R. This rocket, whose commercialization is planned for 2025, has been under development for several years. This process now appears to be accelerating.
Namely, on Tuesday, October 18, Relativity Space announced that it had entered into an agreement with NASA to significantly expand the engine test facilities on Terran R and Aeon R. After the completion of this expansion next year, the company will have one of the largest test facilities in the United States.
This should allow the Terran R to see the light of day quickly. But it can’t happen fast enough for the company and its customers. Relativity Space says it has already secured contracts worth $1.2 billion for launches with the new rocket. It will consist of two floors, both of which can be reused. The Terran R should be able to lift about 20 tons into space, which will place it in the same segment as SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
However, the Terran R should be fully reusable, whereas with the Falcon 9 only the first stage of the rocket can land on Earth. However, SpaceX’s next flagship, the Starship, will be fully reusable.